Technology Industry Faces Permission Tipping Point: Ketchum’s Social Permission and Technology Study Reveals Conflicted Relationship Between Consumers and Technology

Technology Industry Faces Permission Tipping Point: Ketchum’s Social Permission and Technology Study Reveals Conflicted Relationship Between Consumers and Technology


Alicia Stetzer


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‘Techruptors’ Are Digital Natives Who Will Demand Accountability

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 25, 2018  According to a new study, consumers are conflicted about technology’s growing role in their lives, signaling that the technology industry may be facing a permission tipping point. A tech-savvy group of consumers is emerging – dubbed “Techruptors,” this cohort is most likely to disrupt the technology industry by demanding changes in the way technology companies operate and interact with consumers in the future.

A Permission Tipping Point Approaches

Historically, technology companies have been seen as innovators, disrupting the status quo and making our lives easier. This is largely still the case, with about 8 in 10 people (78 percent) believing technology has made their life better in the last five years. Despite this positive outlook, consumers shared some concerns about the growing role technology is playing in their lives. The Social Permission and Technology Study, conducted by global communications consultancy Ketchum, unveiled several dichotomous trends when it comes to consumers’ views on technology:

  • Likely to shop online, but unlikely to trust retailers with their data: 84 percent said technology makes shopping more convenient, and 48 percent said they buy almost everything online. Yet only 8 percent trust retailers with their personal data, and 2 in 5 people (37 percent) don’t trust organizations in any industry with their data.
  • A lack of trust with companies having their data, but no idea what to do about it: While 78 percent are uncomfortable with companies selling their data, more than half of respondents (54 percent) say they agree to privacy terms without reading them all or most of the time.
  • The cause for job losses, but also a cure: 82 percent of respondents believe technology will make certain industries obsolete in the future, yet 74 percent believe it also will lead to the creation of new jobs.
  • Technology makes time with kids better, but it also poses a threat: 55 percent of respondents said technology has made time with their children better. Yet despite what social media feeds might be showing, 73 percent of the population are concerned about sharing family details through mobile apps. Moreover, 85 percent of parents also are concerned about their child’s safety and 76 percent are concerned about new developments in technology affecting their child’s privacy and identity.
  • Friends and family are so close, but yet so far: 81 percent said technology has provided more meaningful long-distance interactions with family and friends, with 59 percent saying technology allows them to make more time for friends. And yet, 58 percent said it is harder to get the attention of friends and family when spending time together because they are distracted by their tech devices.
  • Want more legislation, but don’t trust the government: More than 8 in 10 people (85 percent) believe there needs to be more legislation around data privacy, but only 1 in 5 individuals trust the state (18 percent) or federal (20 percent) government to protect their digital privacy.
  • Can’t live without it, but wish there was less of it: 62 percent of respondents said technology is invaluable in their daily lives, yet almost half (49 percent) said they wish they were born in a time of less technology.

“Consumers are trying to navigate a fine line between the positive impact technology has on their daily lives and a rising unease that it has become too pervasive or that they’re losing control,” said Lisa Sullivan, partner and director of Technology at Ketchum. “Innovation and a

commitment to trying to do the right thing are no longer enough to win consumer favor. Brands need to see the signs that they may be approaching a permission tipping point with their consumers and think strategically about what steps they can take to create and maintain social permission in the marketplace.”

The Rise of ‘Techruptors’

The Social Permission and Technology survey also revealed the emergence of a group of consumers who are most likely to bring disruption to the technology industry. They will demand changes in the way technology companies operate and interact with consumers in the future. These “Techruptors” tend to be young, digital natives who both understand technology and use more tech products and services than the general population – including ride sharing, entertainment streaming, wearable technology and virtual assistants. At the same time, they wish they were born in a time of less technology. These potential disruptors represent more than a third of the population (38 percent).

Techruptors are concerned about how fast technology is developing (67 percent). They also are at least somewhat worried (92 percent) about new developments in technology affecting their privacy. Similar to the general population, Techruptors are most concerned with protecting their personal identification (56 percent), their financial data (44 percent), and their health data (30 percent) from technology.

Techruptors are more likely than the general population to think further legislation around data privacy is needed (91 percent), and 92 percent at least somewhat agree that a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) system should be implemented in the United States.

Melissa Kinch, partner and managing director of Technology at Ketchum, said, “Having incorporated technology into all aspects of their lives, Techruptors are dependent on technology and use it more than others. That said, they are worried that advancements in technology are coming too fast and becoming too pervasive. But they still can’t stop using it.”

She continued, “History tells us that when people feel they have to incorporate something into their lives – for convenience, to keep up or because there is no choice – they eventually grow resentful and will move to take control of the situation. What that disruption will look like remains to be seen. It could be in the form of demanding more extensive legislation at the federal or state levels, or requiring industry-wide changes in the way technology companies currently do business and deal with consumer data. This is a potentially huge vulnerability facing the technology industry, especially when considering social permissions and data protection. These are the people who understand technology best – so they have the knowledge to affect change and cause disruption. It is critical that companies start re-evaluating how they are communicating and creating social permission – the old rules of building a brand have changed.”

About Ketchum’s Social Permission and Technology Study
This omnibus survey was conducted through an online survey of more than 1,000 adults age 18+ in the United States. Ketchum Analytics conducted the survey between June 12, 2018 and June 15, 2018. When necessary, the data was weighted to be nationally representative of the U.S. population as it relates to age, gender, region, race/ethnicity, education and income. The margin of error for the total sample is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.

About Ketchum
Ketchum is a leading global communications consultancy with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. The Holmes Report’s Creative Agency of the Year, Ketchum is the winner of 75 Cannes Lions and an unprecedented six PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards. Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, visit

About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.